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Kitakyushu, Japan

Kitakyushu is a large city on Kyushu island in Japan. It boasts a number of attractions to satisfy visitors. The Kokura Castle is a fully-restored moated fortress castle built in 1602.It also has an adjacent garden and houses museums in the Keep, as well as a museum dedicated to the popular crime fiction author Seicho Matsumoto. Of special interest is an archaic Japanese style lighthouse on the castle grounds. The Mojiko Retro neighborhood is an interesting area of period Western-style buildings that is a favorite of photographers. Outside the city, the Hiraodai is a natural reserve consisting of a large karst plateau, whose grassy slopes are festooned with rounded white limestone boulders that remind the Japanese of sheep in a meadow. In the reserve are also waterfalls, bamboo forests and limestone caverns. Tall Mount Sarakura is accessible by cablecar, and give a breathtaking view back over the sprawling city. Kitakyushu also has a Railway Museum with some well-preserved antique trains and a unique museum dedicated to toilets manufactured by the TOTO company. Many visitors find this museum surprisingly interesting as it contains displays showing the evolution of plumbing and oddities such as a toilet mounted on the body of a motorcycle.